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PICHON (PICHO), JOSEPH:

"Almoxarife" and "contador mayor" (i.e., tax-collector-in-chief) of the city and the archbishopric of Seville; appointed in 1369 by Henry II. of Castile, who esteemed him highly on account of his honesty and cleverness. But on charges brought by some rich coreligionists who also had been admitted at court, Pichon was imprisoned by command of the king and sentenced to pay 40,000 doubloons. On paying this large sum within twenty days he was released and restored to office; in turn, he brought a serious accusation against his enemies, either in revenge or in self-justification.

Henry had died in the meantime, and his son, John I., was his successor. Many rich and influential Jews had gathered from different parts of the country for the auction of the royal taxes at Burgos, where the coronation of John took place. These Jews plotted against the life of Pichon, who was very popular among the Christians and who had received marked attentions from the courtiers. It is not known whether he is in any degree to be blamed for the extraordinary tax of 20,000 doubloons which Henry had imposed upon the Jews of Toledo; but, however this may have been, some prominent Jews, representing various communities, went to the king on the day of the coronation, and, explaining to him that there was among them a "malsin," i.e., an informer and traitor who deserved death according to the laws of their religion, requested him to empower the royal officers to execute the offender. It is said that some minions of the king, bribed by the Jews, induced John to give the order. The delegation then took this order, together with a letter from several Jews who were the leaders of the community, to Fernan Martin, the king's executioner. The latter did not hesitate to fulfil the royal command. At an early hour on Aug. 21, 1379, he went with Don Zulema (Solomon) and Don Zag (Isaac) to the residence of Pichon, who was still sleeping. Pichon was awakened on the pretext that some of his mules were to be seized; and as soon as he appeared at the door Fernan laid hold of him and, without saying a word, beheaded him.

The execution of Pichon, whose name had been concealed from the king, created an unpleasant sensation. The monarch was exceedingly angry thathe had been inveigled into signing the death-warrant of a respected and popular man who had faithfully served his father for many years. He had Zulema, Zag, and the chief rabbi of Burgos, who was in the plot, beheaded; and Martin was to have shared the same fate, but was spared at the intercession of some knights. He, however, paid for his hastiness in the affair by the loss of his right hand. As a consequence of Pichon's execution, the Cortes deprived the rabbis and the Jewish courts of the country of the right to decide criminal cases. The affair had the most disastrous consequences for the Jews of Spain, stimulating the hatred of the population against them, and contributing to the great massacre of the year 1391.

Bibliography:
  • Ayala, Cronica de D. Juan I. ii. 126 et seq.;
  • Zuniga, Anales de Sevilla, ii. 136, 211 et seq.;
  • Rios, Hist. ii. 333 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. viii. 45 et seq.;
  • R. E. J. xxxviii. 258 et seq.
S. M. K.
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